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ITPS Hunter 5th Generation surrogate training aircraft
The high operating costs of 5th generation fighters have many current and prospective operators looking at ways to cut the number of training flight hours on these assets, and transfer them to Surrogate Training Aircraft which have much lower operating costs, and a useful performance envelope featuring avionics representative of those to be found in the latest generation fighters.
Facing a similar challenge with training the test pilots of the future, the International Test Pilots School (ITPS) located in London, Ontario, Canada, started development three years ago of the 5th generation Surrogate Training Aircraft (5STA). This unique training asset is a Hawker Hunter, featuring a 5th gen. Human Machine Interface (HMI), Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) and Live Virtual Constructive Training (LVCT) via data link.
As the video in this post shows, the Hunter 5STA conducted its first flight on Sep. 21, 2023.
Commercial-off-the-shelf hardware and software
The aircraft will be employed at the school, on fundamental avionics testing exercises but also on a new series of exercises evaluating workload and system mission suitability during representative missions.
The transonic jet trainer will also be employed for Performance and Flying Qualities testing exercises. 5STA makes ITPS the first test pilot school to offer its students this novel capability which is based on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and software, therefore accessible by all customers.
Giorgio Clementi, the concept originator, Chief Engineer and Head of Flight Test for ITPS commented in an ITPS Canada news release, “Meticulous planning and flawless execution led to success! Congratulations to the team on the first flight of our 5th gen. Surrogate Training Aircraft (5STA). It has been a long road with many hurdles, but the ITPS team kept the faith and it has borne fruit. Over the coming months, we will develop it to its full capabilities! Well done, team! We can justifiably be proud of this achievement!”.
ITPS Canada Ltd. is the largest school of experimental flight testing in the world, with campuses in Canada and Turkey. It is an internationally recognized school of experimental flight testing and advanced military flight training, offering countless courses such as the one-year Test Pilot and Flight Test Engineer Graduate Courses, Diploma Courses, bespoke Short Courses and online Professional Certificates.
ITPS is an Ontario Ministry of Education Designated learning Institution, offering Master of Science degrees in Flight Test Engineering that are recognized worldwide. ITPS is also a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Approved Training Organization (ATO) 00.30, and is recognized by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) and the Society of Flight Test Engineers (SFTE).
The Hawker Hunter
The iconic Hawker Hunter is a transonic British jet fighter and advanced jet trainer. Close to 2000 were produced for operations with the Royal Air Force and many air forces around the world. The Hunter is still flying in some numbers with RED AIR operators as a reliable and supportable asset. The type is seeing a resurgence with many more being brought back into service. The Hunter has a long history as a trainer for test pilots. Its transonic capabilities, excellent handling qualities and large operating envelope make it useful and relevant still, today. The two-seat trainer’s side by side seating further makes it uniquely useful in a flight test training environment as do its spinning characteristics.
ITPS has purchased three Hawker Hunter T.7 trainers that are receiving extensive cockpit upgrades and being instrumented for flight tests. One of them will be the host for the Advanced Human Machine Interface Research System, (AHMIRS) being developed in collaboration with Ryerson University in Toronto.
The Hawker Hunter T.7 is powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon, Series 100 engine and has a Vmo of 620 KIAS or Mach .94 at sea level and a service ceiling of 50,000 feet.
Photo credit: ITPS Canada